Early Publication Efforts, 1953–1967, Lawrence H. Schiffman, Reclaiming the Dead Sea Scrolls, Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia, 1994.


École Biblique, Jerusalem

École Biblique, Jerusalem. By RonAlmog from Israel (ישראל) – École Biblique, Jerusalem, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=35532400

De Vaux limited the initial assignments for publication to his colleagues at the École Biblique- Pierre Benoit, Jozef T. Milik, and Maurice Baillet. The three were responsible for archaeological reports, the sorting of the jigsaw puzzle of cave 4 fragments, transcription, and publication of the texts. By the spring of 1953, the enormous volume of materials had led to the formation of the International Team, a group of scholars made up of representatives of various archaeological schools and missions then active in Jordanian East Jerusalem. As might be expected, the group included no Israeli or Jewish scholars. Each of the scholars was expected to find individual financial support and remain in Jerusalem for an extended period in order to edit and publish the manuscripts.

The Protestant and Catholic scholars of the ASOR, the École Biblique, and a variety of other Christian institutions in East Jerusalem were assigned lots of manuscripts to prepare for publication. Institutional and interdenominational politics no doubt played a major role in determining which institutions sent representatives to the team. Many have argued that such considerations also helped to decide who would be among the fortunate few. Yet the evidence suggests that in some cases, de Vaux did not even know the members of the team before their arrival. Apparently, little thought had gone into the planning of ways to organize the vast amount of data, who was best qualified for the project, what kind of funding would be necessary, and what would happen in the event of unreasonable delays.

The popular media has characterized the group as overwhelmingly Catholic. In fact, however, the original team of cave 4 editors consisted of four Protestants and four Catholics, although one of the Protestants, John Allegro, was already an agnostic, and another, John Strugnell, would later convert to Catholicism. The exclusion of Israelis and even of Diaspora Jews from that process has been linked to the political situation at the time or the anti-Semitic sentiments of some of the scholars involved. Indeed, most of the editors openly aligned themselves with the Arab cause until well after the 1967 war.

The first scholar to become involved in the new team was Frank Moore Cross Jr., who went on to become an eminent professor at Harvard. Cross was assigned responsibility for the publication of most of the biblical scrolls. His most important contribution to Qumran studies was his paleographic analysis of the history of the scripts, published in 1958. That analysis made possible the dating of fragments with such accuracy that when the more precise method of carbon-14 dating was later applied, Cross’s dates were more or less confirmed.

In fall 1953, Milik and Cross began working together on the cave 4 material in the “scrollery,” the room where scroll fragments were being sorted. Milik had a large lot of fragments assigned to him, including tefillin (phylacteries), mezuzot (small parchment scrolls), Targum (Aramaic Bible translation), pseudohistorical texts, rule books, benedictions, calendrical materials, apocrypha and pseudepigrapha, and business documents. Milik went on to publish more than any of the other scholars. But even his extraordinary productivity could not compensate for the fact that he was assigned many more texts than was reasonable.

By November, it had become apparent that the Jordanian government lacked the necessary funds to keep this important historical treasure from falling into the hands of private collectors. Accordingly, the authorities decided to invite foreign academic institutions to purchase fragments. Between 1954 and 1959, manuscripts were purchased by McGill University of Montreal, the , the Universities of Manchester and Heidelberg, McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, All Souls Church in New York, and Oxford University.

By the time 1953 drew to a close, the scholars working in the PAM had identified some seventy manuscripts from among the cave 4 collection. Additional manuscripts continued to come in as archaeological excavations proceeded.

Then the Syrian Metropolitan decided to redouble his efforts to sell the four large manuscripts in his possession. Although he had tried for years to peddle his scrolls, he had met with little success. He had even exhibited them at the Library of Congress in an attempt to attract buyers. Despite ASOR’s assurances to the contrary, the publication of these texts had in fact lowered their value. Stymied, the Metropolitan placed an advertisement in the Wall Street Journal of June 1, 1954, suggesting that the scrolls “would be an ideal gift to an educational or religious institution.”

The advertisement was brought to the attention of Yigael Yadin, then on a lecture tour of the . With the assistance of the Israeli government, Yadin immediately made arrangements to purchase the scrolls through an intermediary. Before the purchase was finalized, Harry Orlinsky of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, using an assumed name and under conditions of great secrecy, inspected the scrolls and authenticated them. On July 1, 1954, the scrolls came into the possession of the State of Israel. Soon after, the cost of those scrolls, the sum of $250,000, was donated by Samuel Gottesman of New York, allowing Yadin to repay the loan with which he had paid for the scrolls. The texts were eventually housed in the Shrine of the Book of the Israel Museum, where they remain today.

At about the same time, John Strugnell of Jesus College of Oxford University joined the scrollery. Beside Milik, he was the most consistent in his scrollery work in the 1950s. His assignment was a large lot of paraphrases of the Pentateuch, pseudoprophetic texts, hymns, and liturgical and sapient texts. Since he had managed to publish only very few of them himself, Strugnell eventually turned many of these over for publication to his students at Harvard, where he taught for many years. Strugnell was eventually to rise to the position of editor in chief. It was during his tenure that the pressure for full release of all of the scrolls came to a head.

In 1955, Sukenik’s edition of a scroll of Isaiah (Isaiah B), the Thanksgiving Hymns, and the War Scroll was published posthumously. Thus, by 1955, all of the scrolls in the possession of the Israelis had been published except Genesis Apocryphon, which, owing to its fragile condition, was not successfully unrolled until 1956.

In the winter and spring of 1955, excavations revealed four additional caves which had collapsed—caves 7–10. These caves yielded small numbers of texts. January 1956 brought the discovery of cave 11 by Bedouin. The Jordanian government sold to various institutions the rights to publication as a means of financing the purchase. The main purchasers were ASOR—through the generosity of the Bechtel family—and the Royal Academy of the . Among the ASOR lot was an Ezekiel Scroll, which could never be opened because of its poor state of preservation, and the Psalms Scroll, which was published by James A. Sanders in 1965. The Dutch purchased the Job Targum and a number of other extremely important manuscripts. The largest of the cave 11 scrolls, the Temple Scroll, was acquired by Yadin for from Kando only after the Six-Day War.

In 1956, de Vaux and his colleagues undertook a preliminary investigation at Ein Feshka, near the Dead Sea. (This site was eventually identified as an offshoot and industrial zone of the inhabitants of Qumran. It was officially excavated in 1958.) On June 1 of that same year, the Copper Scroll, a list of buried treasures allegedly hidden in the Judaean wilderness, was revealed to the public after it had been sawed apart and deciphered.

That year, the politics of the Middle East and the Arab-Israeli conflict once again interfered in Dead Sea Scrolls research. As a direct result of both Egypt’s nationalization of the Suez Canal and Arab raids into Israel, together Israel, Britain, and France attacked Egypt in the 1956 Sinai Campaign. That military confrontation led to the dispersal of the International Team. For the duration of the hostilities, the scrolls were temporarily removed to Amman for safekeeping.

In the fall of that year, the five legible columns of Genesis Apocryphon, the last of the Israeli scroll acquisitions to be published, appeared in the edition prepared by Yigael Yadin and Nahman Avigad. With the publication of that volume, Israeli scholars had completed their obligation to publish the Qumran scrolls in their possession.

Research on the scrolls was now sufficiently advanced to necessitate creation of a concordance—an index of all the occurrences of each word—to aid in interpretation of the material. In July 1957, Joseph Fitzmyer began to compile the concordance on index cards. He was joined by Raymond Brown and William G. Oxtoby. Their project was halted in 1960, when Rockefeller’s funding ended, except for some additions by Javier Teixidor. Both Fitzmyer and Brown went on to become distinguished contributors to Qumran studies, Fitzmyer emerging as a leading expert on the Aramaic materials and on the relationship of the scrolls to the New Testament. It was that concordance that would eventually lead to the International Team’s undoing and the end of their monopoly.

In July 1958, the last of the cave 4 texts were purchased from Kando by the Jordanian authorities, bringing to a close an important stage in the history of Qumran research. Those fragments, however, would wait years before seeing the light of day and, indeed, are only now being published.

Throughout that period, Israeli archaeologists had watched with great interest as Bedouin continuously unearthed scrolls in the Jordanian-controlled part of the Judaean Desert. In March 1955, the first season of an archaeological survey was carried out at Masada, the Herodian desert fortress farther south on the shore of the Dead Sea. Participating in this project were the Hebrew University, the Israel Exploration Society, and the Israel Department of Antiquities. Masada had been the last stand of the rebels in the Jewish revolt against Rome in 66–73 C.E. Archaeologists would find at Masada some of the same texts found at Qumran.

That same spring, John M. Allegro published his edition of the Copper Scroll. He had gained access to the scroll because as a member of the International Team, he had supervised its unrolling in Manchester. Even though this scroll had been officially assigned to Milik for publication, Allegro preempted him by publishing an unauthorized edition. Not surprisingly, Allegro’s edition caused great friction within the team, whose members never forgave him for this betrayal nor for his exaggerated claims that the scrolls had explosive implications for the Christian faith. That same spring, Allegro conducted an expedition to try to find the treasures mentioned in the scroll, but he came up empty-handed. This quest continues even to the present day.

When funding by the Rockefeller family came to an end in June 1960, the members of the International Team scattered to their various universities. By this time, the work of sorting the entire collection had been basically completed. Almost all of the texts had been transcribed in preliminary fashion. Had publication followed quickly, members of the International Team would have emerged as heroes, acclaimed for their expert and speedy work. But such was not to be the case. The many delays that occurred after they left Jerusalem, coupled with the denial of access to other scholars, eventually led to intense controversy.

When the International Team disbanded, de Vaux wrote letters to the various institutions that had purchased scrolls, informing them that work on the scrolls was now complete. The next step was for those institutions to apply to the Jordanian government for export permits. On July 27, 1960, that government made the wise decision to cancel such arrangements, deciding instead to keep the scrolls in and to reimburse the various institutions for their contributions toward purchase of the scrolls.

By June 1961, 511 manuscripts of cave 4 had been identified, arranged on 620 museum plates; 25 plates of material remained unidentified. The final series of photographs was also completed at that time.

In November 1966, the Jordanian government, in an effort to control its national archaeological treasures, decided to nationalize the Palestine Archaeological Museum. The following spring, when conquered East Jerusalem in the Six-Day War, its Department of Antiquities assumed control of this important collection of unpublished Dead Sea Scrolls.

In the aftermath of the war, Yadin acquired the Temple Scroll from Kando. That purchase ended a drama begun in 1960. At that time, a certain Reverend Joe Uhrig had offered the scroll to Yadin, supplying him a small sample and securing in return a deposit of $10,000. Yadin never heard from Uhrig again. In 1967, Yadin learned that the scroll was now in Kando’s hands. In the early days of the war, Yadin sent a detachment of soldiers to Kando’s house in Bethlehem, where they seized the scroll, thereby saving it from the rot that was destroying it under Kando’s floorboards. Later, Kando was compensated with a payment of $108,000.

Although the conquest of East Jerusalem in the 1967 war was originally not the aim of the Israeli government, it changed its plans when began shelling Israeli West Jerusalem. In the wake of the bombing, the Israelis pressed on to capture and unify Jerusalem. During intense hand-to-hand fighting, Israeli soldiers entered the Palestine Archaeological Museum, where they found virtually all of the Dead Sea Scrolls safe and intact. Soon after the war, the museum was reopened to the public and renamed the Rockefeller Museum in commemoration of the major financial support the Rockefeller family had provided in the past. A few scrolls on exhibit in Amman when the war broke out still remain there along with the Copper Scroll.

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